Elizabeth May a small-c conservative?
Since my post this week on the election of Green Party president Elizabeth May, a leftie friend has sent me more info about her, citing a 2008 article in Canadian Jewish News. Initially, I found some of it disturbing, but it did not all pan out.
I have always considered Canada’s Green Party a progressive, leftist force; it certainly garners a lot of leftie support. Well, May’s political roots seem to come from the right. In the mid-1980s, she served as senior policy adviser to Tom McMillan, the Tory environment minister under then-prime minister Brian Mulroney. That’s distressing, yet I’d like to know: How much have her views and policies changed since then?
In this year’s federal election, she received an endorsement from Fraser Smith, who spent six years on the Reform party’s executive committee, according to a National Post article. (My friend said that Smith was May’s chief strategist, but I couldn’t find any online info to confirm that.) Smith called her “a good conservative” in her views about the economy. I don’t have an issue with that. If she’s not going to spend us into humungous debt, that’s a good thing.
May has apparently said herself that her party is not of the left. And yet she’s got Ken Wu, a former forestry activist with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, as her communications manager. He doesn’t sound like somebody who would support a Tory. (I dislike such limiting terms as “right” and “left” yet they make convenient labels. Unfortunately, they usually lend themselves too easily to black-and-white thinking. Humans and their activity are a lot more complex than that.)
Back in 2008, May said that she would raise the GST back to six per cent and use this as a source of revenue for “community-level” needs such as public transit, sewer and water facilities, recreation areas and bike paths. That sounds good to me.
She’d also reduce corporate tax rates, supposedly tied to the incentive of reducing greenhouse gases. That sounds more dubious and more conservative. Yet she also said that she wanted to direct more money to low-income Canadians. And she claimed that the Green Party would scrap the Conservatives’ child-care tax benefit (a token $100 a month per child up to age six) in favour of fully accessible child-care spaces, early learning educational experiences, and support for families who want to raise a child at home. That all sounds great to me.
I’m not worried that May is a closet Tory in green clothing. I think that she’s got enough progressive thinkers and activists around her, and who voted for her, to keep her honest and to remind her that protecting the environment, indeed, is a prime mandate — not an impediment to jobs and corporate “progress.”
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Meanwhile, the thought of what prime minister Harper can do in Canada with a majority government is truly frightening. As someone said to me, the Canada that Tommy Douglas built might never be the same. Still, I’d rather put my energy into proactive responses and activism and hope rather than despair and alarmist rhetoric.
Yet, my friend points out that the first thing Harper plans to do is legislate away all funding to political parties. (Right now, they get a financial amount based on their number of popular votes.) As my friend wrote me in an email: “Since the Liberals are heavily in debt, this may be another nail in their coffin (which is Harper’s intent). Can you spell f-a-s-c-i-s-t? This guy is very, very dangerous.”